Three big reasons why this isn’t ‘new politics’

By Jonathan Bartley
May 12, 2010

There are three very worrying features to the new LibDem-Tory coalition agreement, which raise many fundamental democratic questions:

1. There is no commitment to consulting the people in a referendum on proportional representation (only on AV). Why give people the choice of a new system which can be less fair, but not the choice of one which is more fair?

2. The coalition government plans, as part of its move toward fixed term five year Parliaments, to introduce a new threshold of 55 per cent (rather than 50 per cent plus one vote) for a dissolution of parliament and so triggering a general election. This would mean that a Tory minority government could continue for five years, without the support of the Lib Dems, even if a majority of the House of Commons opposed it. Tories would need to vote too for an election to happen. This no doubt will be justified in terms of the 'national interest' which requires 'stable government'. What it does mean is hugely unaccountable government.

3. One of the normal checks on the executive would be the House of Lords. However the two parties have agreed to stuff the House of Lords with political appointments immediately, before any reform of the Second Chamber is undertaken. Specifically they say: “Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.” This seems to mean that there would be an inbuilt Con-Lib majority in both houses to drive through whatever they like, without opposition.

If this is new politics, it looks just as undemocratic (if not more so) than the old politics.

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